The creators of Sex Education go even further in their groundbreaking series.
After the development of Netflix’s Sex Education to a worldwide sensation that has had commentators wondering why this has never existed before, there has been pressure on what season two would consist of as soon as season one ended. Season two of Sex Education not only picks up the threads of season one perfectly, but develops its plotlines, characters, and relationships in ways that feel both fresh and consistent. The first season was praised for its diversity and the way it handled issues such as abortion and sexuality in subtle, sensitive ways; however, it has taken this even further with the inclusion of new LGBTQ+ characters, and examination of issues such as sexual assault, child neglect, and the difficulties of coming out.
What makes Sex Education stand out from other diverse TV shows aimed at young people, such as Riverdale, is the way it represents LGBTQ+ teens and the manner in which it covers social issues without being preachy, or feeling forced or unnatural. The show makes sure to carefully flesh out every character, even minor characters, so the inclusion of pansexual, gay, or asexual characters feels totally natural and avoids tokenising. Complex, interesting characters such as Adam (Connor Swindells) and Ola (Patrica Allison) help the LGBTQ+ plotlines to feel realistic to the lived experiences of real LGBTQ+ people, not stereotypical (Ola taking an online quiz to work out her sexuality being a particularly relatable moment), and neither infantilises nor demonises LGBTQ+ people but allows them to be flawed characters. The LGBTQ+ relationships in the new season are fuelled by the amazing chemistry between the characters, particularly Adam and Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), and threaten to overshadow the main pairing of the series. This season also spends more time developing its female characters, shifting the show’s focus to a wonderfully diverse cast of women and girls.
The show also acknowledges the flaws and mistakes made by its central character, Otis, in a way that feels real and relatable. His fears about his own masculinity, turning into his deadbeat father, and generally being an “arsehole” are sympathetically explored, but his mistakes are never glossed over by the narrative, turning Otis into a far more interesting exploration of heterosexual masculinity than in season one.
Plotlines cover heavy topics and impart lessons about sexuality and love in ways that feel natural and well-written; instead of preaching Sex Education allows these moments to occur naturally and form from the main plot. By including more of Gillian Anderson’s brilliant sex therapist character, Jean Milburn, the show can naturally touch upon education on asexuality and kink without detracting from the flow of the story. But the most teachable moment comes when a group of teenage girls are forced to find some common ground between them, and only come up with one thing – sexual harassment. Far from feeling too heavy or eye-rollingly cringey, the scene manages to come across both as poignant and humorous – when their teacher asks what they found binds them together, one of the girls replies, “other than non-consensual penises, Miss, not much.”
The show never sacrifices entertainment for education, balancing humour and heavy emotion perfectly and always managing to avoid patronising its young audience, imparting messages in a subtle manner and allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions. With its emotional cliff-hanger of an ending, Sex Education is telling a compelling story that slips in lessons about life in such a subtle way that you hardly notice until the whole thing is over.
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